Summer (Rebecca Susan) Brenner, born March 17, 1945, was raised by her parents Edward and Rita Brenner, first generation Ashkenazic Jews, who settled in Atlanta, Georgia. Brenner became a novelist, poet, and activist; a mother of two children, Felix and Joanna; and now resides in Berkeley and the Bay Area of California.
Raised by a creative mother who was an artist and a father who was politically liberal in the segregated South, Summer Brenner moved north to Simmons College in Boston, and then studied abroad at the University of Florence (1965-1966) and the University of Paris (1966-1967). She completed requirements for a bachelor of arts at Georgia State University in 1968. After relocating to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brenner moved again in the 1970s to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has thrived creatively in diverse artistic and writing communities.
Brenner was a prolific correspondent, who exchanged personal news, drafts of works in progress, and literary advice with members from an intimate circle of writers and artists that included Laura Chester, Gloria Frym, Margaret Edwards, Barry Gifford, Stephen Rodefer, Geoff Young, Aline and Robert Crumb, and Andrei Codrescu. In collaboration with many of these, Brenner contributed her own writing and helped edit independent little magazines or small press projects. The many notable periodicals in which her own work has appeared include Beatitude , The Berkeley Monthly , Big Sky , Exquisite Corpse , Fervent Valley , Outpost , Pangolin , Snap , Southpaw , Stooge , The Three Penny Review , Two Charlies Magazine , Yellow Silk: Journal of Erotic Arts , Yawp , and ZYZZYVA .
Brenner is the author of ten books of poetry and fiction, including two influential books for young people. Her books include Everyone Came Dressed as Water (1973), From the Heart to the Center (1977), The Soft Room (1978), Dancers and the Dance (1990), One Minute Movies (1996), Nearly Nowhere and the French translation of this novel, Presque nulle part (1999), Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francisco (2000), The Missing Lover (2006), and an audio CD, Because the Spirit Moved by Arundo. Her most recent works include a children's novel titled Richmond Tales: Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle (2009) and I-5: A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex (2009).
Brenner's literary writings and activities are diverse and often community based. In her early years in the Bay Area, she participated in many poetry readings and spoken word performances. "The Flood," her poem in four voices, was performed at Links Hall in Chicago, and her one-act play, "The Missing Lover," was directed by Peter Glazer. Because the Spirit Moved (by Arundo, 2003) is a recorded production that sets Brenner's poetry to music by Andy Dinsmoor. With the aid of grant funding, Brenner developed several projects to bring writing to her community, such as "Where We're From," which brings together youth and their elders through an inter-generational project that combines cross-cultural oral history, poetry, and photography.
Beyond her writing career, Brenner worked as an activist through the human rights organization Amnesty International. As a member of this organization, Brenner wrote articles and organized poetry readings to raise awareness, publicly demonstrated against the death penalty, protested the execution of reformed Crips founder, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and, on behalf of various "prisoners of conscience," appealed to numerous dignitaries of foreign countries to respect basic human rights.
"Rebecca Summer Brenner." Contemporary Authors Online reproduced in Literature Resource Center. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/LitRC (accessed February 2010).
Summer Brenner (author's website). http://summerbrenner.com/ (accessed February 2010).
The Summer Brenner papers offers a comprehensive view of an American poet and novelist's life across four decades beginning in the 1960s. The collection includes extensive personal correspondence and journals, literary manuscripts and drafts documenting all stages of the writing and publishing process, and Brenner's work from magazine contributions, book publications, and community projects, including her contributions to the literary small press, The Figures. Notable corespondents include: Laura Chester, Gloria Frym, Barry Gifford, Stephen Rodefer, Geoff Young, Aline and Robert Crumb, and Andrei Codrescu.
The collection is organized in seven series: I. Personal correspondence, II. Personal records and photographs, III. Diaries and journals, IV. Writing projects, V. Promotional materials, VI. Printed materials, and VII. Activism and social causes.
Summer Brenner was a lifelong keeper of personal correspondence, which is found in the first series. The organization of the incoming correspondence in Series I.A. reflects Summer Brenner's original physical housing, which included letterboxes filled annually. Though most of her letterboxes were commercial stationer's products, several of Brenner's letterboxes are covered in collages. Individual correspondents, whom Brenner grouped by name within each annual letterbox with rubber bands and ties, are maintained in folders within the respective years. In addition to documenting Brenner's youthful travels, her rich personal network of friends, and creative projects, this series captures the material history of written communication in the later half of the 20th century and early 21st century. Formal letters to agents, magazines, and publishing house editors are intermingled with artistically decorated and hand-crafted letters, post cards, holiday and greeting cards, and e-mails . Over hundreds of letters, Brenner exchanged personal matters, drafts, and literary advice with members from a small circle of writers and artists who included Laura Chester, Gloria Frym, Margaret Edwards, Helène Aylon, Barry Gifford, Stephen Rodefer, Robert Fichter, Bill Pearlman, Moe Slotin, Geoff Young, Aline and Robert Crumb, and Andrei Codrescu. The collection includes over 400 letters and postcards from the poet Laura Chester to Brenner, as well as drafts and clippings from Chester, Gifford, Frym, and Edwards.
Series two of the collection includes personal records, such as desk and wall calendars that help reconstruct Brenner's activities, and several photographs of Brenner. The calendars are heavily annotated, which offers an overview of Brenner's daily activities, social events, and writing-related occasions. Wall calendars include the years 1975-1979, 1981-1985, 1987, 1993, 1996-1998, and desk calendars include the years 1997-2005.
Series three of the collection includes twenty-eight creative journals and personal diaries that spanned the years 1966 to 1992 with dates bulking between 1970 and 1979. The journal contents range from personal reflections, annotated dreams, and travel sketches to outlines and foul papers of writing projects, poems, clippings, and letters. The wide geographical range of Brenner's life and travel is reflected in the journals to include locations such as Paris, California, and Japan.
Series four contains manuscripts and typescripts of both published and unpublished materials. Brenner frequently labeled her drafts, which allows for a distinct view of her process from first draft to corrected and uncorrected galley proofs, which are also found in this series. Draft titles or working titles of Brenner's novels are Anabranch , Art of Defense , Chicken Stories , Condition of Desire , Stories about Love and Work , Dancers and the Dance , The Festival of Instinct , Genetrix , Girl , The History of Metal , Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francsico , Lost and Found War , The Maisonette , Nearly Nowhere , Notes from Daily Life , One Minute Movies , Sail Back Sun , Shooting Stars , The Soft Room , Running, Rolling, Shouting: Snapshots from Daily Life , Victims' Victims , and A Woman was Riding . Early drafts of these novels often included a considerable amount of revision as handwritten corrections appear both along the margins and as interlinear notations among cross-outs and typeovers. Later stages of the publication process, which included both corrected and uncorrected galley proofs, also appear in series four.
In series four, other subseries include Brenner's drafts of children's books and children's poetry; student responses to her book Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francsico , which include thank you posters and student drawings of particular book scenes; published and unpublished articles written about technological, social, and political affairs; and other writers' work, which include stories and articles written by Laura Chester, Margaret Edwards, Gloria Fyrm, and Elizabeth Hall. Brenner also endeavored to compile a dance anthology based on various interpretations and beliefs regarding dance across cultures. Stages of the writing project included in this collection are Brenner's letters to various writers and editors as well as an assemblage of drafts from contributors. Also appearing in series four are Brenner's teaching materials for writing and dance workshops and her lecture materials from a conference in Japan in 1983.
Series five includes publication correspondence and promotional materials, which offers a comprehensive view of Brenner's interaction with the business side of writing. Among Brenner's correspondents were agents, magazine editors, and both small press and publishing house editors. Correspondents also included editors of anthologies who wrote to request contributions from Brenner. Letters of request include anthologies such as Laura Chester's Deep Down, The New Sensual Writing by Women and The Unmade Bed as well as ZYZZYVA , Contact Quarterly , The Erotic Impulse , and Where the Heart Is . Brenner's business matters surrounding Dancers and the Dance are documented through correspondence with the marketing, promotion, and sales director of the Coffee House Press. Among these materials are photocopies of book advertisements, letters to writers requesting a back cover endorsement, and the author's book contract. Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francsico is another book with a thoroughly documented publication and promotional history. The publication history reflected in this collection includes correspondence with the book's illustrator, Marilyn Bogerd. Bogerd's materials supply the drafts of scene sketches, prototype sketches of the book's title character, and the book's cover art. Other materials regarding Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francsico include promotional ephemera, clippings of reviews, and a typescript interview from the San Francisco Chronicle .
Series six contains fifty-two periodicals, small journals, and little magazines where Brenner's short fiction and poetry has appeared. In collaboration with individuals from an extended creative circle, Brenner not only contributed works but helped edit some of these self-published collections. The many notable periodicals where Brenner's work has appeared include Beatitude , The Berkeley Monthly , Big Sky , Exquisite Corpse , Fervent Valley , Outpost , Pangolin , Snap , Southpaw , Stooge , The Three Penny Review , Two Charlies Magazine , Yellow Silk: Journal of Erotic Arts , Yawp , and ZYZZYVA .
Series seven includes materials beyond Brenner's writing career, as she worked as an activist through the human rights organization, Amnesty International. The world-wide movement's main cause was to campaign for internationally recognized human rights by mobilizing public pressure surrounding governments that continued to commit crimes against humanity. As a member of this organization, Brenner wrote articles and organized poetry readings to raise awareness, publicly demonstrated against the death penalty, protested the execution of reformed Crips founder, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and, on behalf of various "prisoners of conscience," appealed to numerous dignitaries of foreign countries to respect these prisoners' basic human rights. Articles and clippings related to Brenner's attempt to raise awareness are included in series seven. Also included are printed email correspondence that she had shared with members from Amnesty International as well as copies of letters she had written to foreign dignitaries.